Definition of socialization

Socialization can be defined in different ways:

  1. Socialization is a process of instilling fundamental elements of culture in the members of a society. It is one of the basic forces that shape human social behaviour as well as inherited behaviour (Craig etal 1994)
  2. Socialization can also be defined as the process by which people interact with others to learn the ways of their culture in order to function well within it.
  3. The term socialization used by sociologists, social psychologists and educationalists to refer to the process of learning ones culture and how to live within it. For the individual it provides the resources necessary for acting and participating within their society. For the society inducting all individual members into its moral norms, attitude, values, motives , social roles, language and symbols is the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained.


  • Socialization is the process through which by contact with other human beings, one becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable human being, skilled in the ways of a given culture and environment. Socialization is particularly important during early childhood
  • Without socialization in the first few years of life, people would not become social beings. Socialization is however not confined to childhood. It proceeds throughout life and is especially important during the many transitions that one is likely to meet in life.
  • Sometimes the learning is fun. As in when we learn a new sport, art or musical technique from a friend we like. At another time, social learning is painful as when we learn not to drive too fast by receiving a large fine for speeding. Socialization is particularly important during childhood because without it, it would hard to become social beings.
  • Socialization always take place in social relationships in which even young children are active participants. It is through socialization that we develop our most basic ideas of who we are as individuals and how we relate to other people around us. Although socialization is mainly an issue of childhood and adolescence, it is a continuous process that goes on throughout ones life time.
  • Natural socialization occurs when infants and young stars explore, play and discover the world around them. Natural socialization is easily seen when looking at the young of almost all mammalian species (and some birds). Planned socialization occurs when other people take actions designed to teach or train others—from infancy on.
  • Planned socialization is mostly a human phenomenon; and all through history, people have been making plans for teaching or training others. Both natural and planned socialization can have good and bad features. Its wise to learn the best features of both natural and planned socialization and weave them into our lives.
  • Positive socialization is the type of social learning that is based on pleasurable and exciting experiences. We tend to like the people who fill our social learning process through positive motivation, loving care and rewarding opportunities. Positive socialization coupled with valuable information about life and the skills needed to live well can be a powerful tool for promoting human development
  • We all have an enormous human potential, and we all could develop a large portion of it if we had the encouragement that come with positive socialization and th wisdom that comes with valuable information about living.
  • Negative socialization occurs when others use punishment, harsh criticisms or anger to try to teach us a lesson and often we come to dislike both negative socialization and the people who impose it us.
  • Human infants are born without any culture. They must be transformed by their parents and teachers. The general process of acquiring culture is referred to as socialization.
  • During socialization we learn the language of the culture we are born into as well as the roles we are to play in life. For instance, girls learn how to be daughters, sisters, sisters, friends, wives and mothers. In addition they learn about occupational roles that their society has in store for them. We also learn and usually adopt our cultures norms through the socialization process. Norms are the conceptions of appropriate and expected behaviour that are held by most members of the society.
  • Socialization is important in the process of personality formation. While much of human personality is the result of our genes, the socialization process can mold it in a particular direction by encouraging specific beliefs and attitudes as well as selectively providing experiences.
  • Successful socialization can result in uniformity within a society. If all children receive the same socialization, it is likely that they will share the same beliefs and expectations. This fact has been a strong motivation for national governments around the world to standardize education and make it compulsory for all children. Deciding what things will be taught and how they are taught is a powerful political tool for controlling people.
  • Those who internalize the norms of society are less likely to break the law or to want radical social changes. In all societies, however, there are individuals who do not conform to culturally defined standards of normalcy because they have not internalized the norms of society. These people are usually labeled by their society as deviants or even mentally ill.
  • Socialization is a learning process that begins shortly after birth. Early childhood is the period of the most intense and the most crucial socialization. It is then we acquire language and learn the fundamentals of our culture. Its also when much of the personalities take shape. however, we continue to be socialized throughout our lives.

Henslin (1999), contends that an important part of socialization is the learning of culturally defined gender roles. Gender socialization refers to the learning of behaviour and attitudes considered appropriate for a given sex. Booys learn to be boys and girls learn to be gorls. The family is certainly important in reinforcing gender roles, but so are ones friends, school, work and the mass media


                                    FORMS OF SOCIALIZATION

They include the following

  • Primary socialization
  • Secondary socialization
  • Development socialization
  • Anticipatory socialization
  • Re-socialization


1. Primary socialization:-

Primary socialization is the process whereby people learn the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individual as members of a particular culture. Eg if a child saw their mother expressing a discriminatory opinion about a minority group then that child may think this behaviour is unacceptable and could continue to have this opinion

2. Secondary socialization:-

Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what appropriate behaviour is required of one as a member of a smaller group within a larger society. It is usually associated with teenagers and adults, and involves smaller changes that those occurring in primary socialization eg entering a new profession, relocating to new environment or society.

3. Developmental socialization:-

Is the process of learning behaviour in a social institution or developing your social skills.

4. Anticipatory socialization:-

Anticipatory socialization refers to the process of socialization in which a person rehearses for future positions, occupations and social relationships.

5. Re-socialization:-

This refers to the process of discarding former behaviour patterns and accepting new ones as part of transition in one’s life. This occurs through a human life cycle. It can be an intense experience, with the individual experiencing a sharp break with their past and needing to learn and be exposed to radically different norms and values. An example might be the experience of a young man or woman leaving home to join military.

It is a sociological concept dealing with the process of mentally and emotionally ‘re-training ‘ a person so that he/she can operate in an environment rather that which he/she is accustomed to. Re-socialization into a total institution involves a complete change of personality. Eg the process of re-socializing new recruits into the military so that they can operate as soldiers.


  • Family
  • School
  • Peer group
  • Mass media
  • Work place
  • State
  • Religion



This is the most important agent of socialization. It is the first social world that a child encounters, and family members are the mirrors in whch children begin to see themselves. The family provides the settings for primary socialization since it provides the earliest human contact for an infant and has the responsibility of giving the attention, love and concern.

As the primary agent of socialization, parents guide their children into gender roles that are considered appropriate to them in society. The family also gives the child its position in the social structure of society in terms of social class, ethnicity and religion.

Location of the family in the class structure of society, based on education, wealth, prestige etc has enormous effects on the socialization of children. Children also observe the parents behaviour concerning different issues, hence an information process of anticipatory socialization. Although parents are thought to have a positive effect on their childrens socialization, this is not always the case.


The school plays the function of teaching children the values and customs of the larger society. They channel children into various roles by evaluating their performance in various fields and track them into high and low achievement routs, which definitely affects their future opportunities. Schools teach students the values and customs of the larger society, hence socializing them into conventional gender roles.


Peer group provide children with their first experience of equal status relationships, because unlike home and school where the parents and teachers dominate in the peer group, everyone is in position to assert him-self.

Peer influences one towards conformity or non-conformity to society’s expectations. Interaction within the peer group accomplishes much in the establishment of identity and concept because it is from others that we learn how others perceive us outside the family.

The equal status among the peers helps them to learn the norms of sharing and reciprocity.


This includes television, video, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, radio and internet. All forms of media play a role of socialization, but the television seems to be a major critical force in the socialization process. The mass media can have both positive and negative influence on people’s lifestyles depending on what material people get from them.


Learning to behave appropriately within an occupation is a fundamental aspect of human socialization. Socialization inn the work place changes when it involves a more permanent shift from an after-school job to full time employment. It is important that one is socialized in to the expected roles, as per his/her position at the work place. This is occupational socialization.


Social scientists have increasingly recognized the importance of the state as an agent of socialization, because its growing impact ton the life course. Traditionally, the family served as the primary caregivers, but currently, the familys protective function has steadily been transferred to outside agencies such as hospitals, mental health clinics, insurance companies, and police posts e.t.c.

National and state interests largely influence the individual as a citizen and an economic actor. The state shapes the socialization process by regulating the life course to some degree and by influencing peoples views of appropriate behaviour at particular ages.

The enforcement of law helps in making people to choose lifestyles of a particular state.



The term total institutions was coined in 1961 by Erving Goffman designed to describe a society which is socially isolated but still provides for all the needs of it members. Therefore total institutions have the ability to recognize people either voluntarily or involuntarily. For example the following would be considered as total institutions: prison, the military, military, mental hospitals and convents. (Schaefer and Lamm 1992).

Goffman lists four characteristics of such institutions:-

  1. All aspects of life are conducted in the same place and under the same single authority
  2. Each phase of a members daily activity is carried out in the immediate company of others. All members are treated alike and all members do the same things together.
  3. Daily activities are tightly.
  4. A single rational plan exists to fulfill the goals of the institution


  1. Through socialization people develop distinct ways of action depicted through their lifestyles.
  2. It enables people to learn and develop an identity
  3. Socialization ensures functional integration by equipping society members with different skills.
  4. It enables people to learn how to adapt to their physical, cultural and social environments.
  5. It enables people to learn the attitudes, values and behaviours appropriate for members of a particular culture, helps in appreciating other peoples culture
  6. It ensures the long term continuance of a society through transmission of culture from one generation to another.
  7. It helps in shaping our self images thus determines our self esteem.
(Visited 159 times, 1 visits today)
Share this:

Written by